WRITTEN BY: Michael Bacall
DIRECTED BY: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
STARRING: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube
RATING: 3.5 stars
Attention children of the 80s who watched the television series 21 Jump Street. Go see the film adaptation. I'd really like to end this review here, but since you probably expect a more thorough explanation, I'll go on. 21 Jump Street (the film) is actually more of an homage to the television series than you would expect. It's completely ridiculous in its concept and yet it realises that and embraces it. We know that grown men cannot look like teenagers, but who cares? It's fun! Rather than become a cringe worthy product of its genre, the film is full of laughs and worth seeing, even if you never saw the show.
Written by Michael Bacall, but based on a story he developed with Jonah Hill, 21 Jump Street begins in 2005 when our protagonists Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are in their final year of high school. Schmidt is a book-smart loser who tries far too hard to look like Eminem, while Jenko is a stereotypical jock who doesn't care about school. They're both devastated when they miss out on the school prom for different reasons. Flash forward seven years to the present day and the pair are now police recruits and friends. When they screw up an arrest, the pair are sent to 21 Jump Street - an undercover unit where young-looking officers are sent into high schools to solve crimes. Their task is to investigate a drug ring but being back in high school could be harder than they think.
Yes, the concept of the film is just as ridiculous as that of the television show. However, unlike the series, the film is not taking the idea seriously. It’s there to be made fun of and fun is certainly what you have watching 21 Jump Street. The film mocks the show while also recognising that it was very popular during its time. Fans of the television show will laugh at the nods towards the popular series and there are many cameos from the original cast including Holly Robinson Peete (Judy Hoffs) and of course Peter DeLuise (Doug Penhall) and Johnny Depp (Tom Hanson) who share a hilarious scene. Keen fans will even notice that the original series is screening on a television in one scene.
The film also repeatedly satirises the buddy action film genre, especially in one unconventional car chase scene. It even pokes fun at modern pop culture and how much schools have changed. Apparently, it's now cool to care about the environment and wear both straps of a backpack. Teenage boys are also now wearing skinny leg jeans and bullying is frowned upon. As Tatum's character says, "I totally know the cause. Glee!"
The dialogue in this film is fast and mildly disgusting at times. There are some good one-liners and they are delivered with conviction. Hill is fast becoming a big name in Hollywood. He's a smart comedic actor who can also take on serious roles (Moneyball). He plays shy and awkward well, but he has some great scenes where he is allowed to go a little crazy with his character and it's fun to watch. Tatum is also very good. I prefer to watch him in comedic roles (She's The Man) because he's not the greatest serious actor, but his comedic timing is impressive. They are supported by a good cast including Dave Franco who plays a popular student linked to the drug ring and Brie Larson who plays his casual girlfriend and is in the drama class. The only disappointment was Ice Cube as the police boss who seemed disinterested.
While 21 Jump Street relies a lot on stereotypical characters and can appear to be a little unoriginal in areas, there is enough sheen to make it an enjoyable laugh-out-loud film.